PARK CITY, Utah -- Bluebird skies and spring-like conditions made for a great start to the 2013 U.S. Grand Prix Halfpipe finals in Park City, Utah.
Shaun White decided to throw his hat into the Grand Prix finals ring at the last minute. Coming off his halfpipe victory at X Games Aspen, he added yet another gold to his collection here Friday afternoon. Jiayu Lui seized gold for the women, becoming the first Chinese competitor to come in first at a U.S. Grand Prix.
White's first run landed him sixth with an incomplete, giving contenders such as Scotty Lago a shot at the top slot with his frontside double 12 truck driver.
"The hard part of the first run was that the frontside wall had a lot of vert on it, so it kept putting me at the bottom of the landing," White said. "It kills your speed, it kills your motivation. You've got nothing to get to the next wall. So that's what happened; I planted my face on that double McTwist and vowed to not do it again."
White made a full recovery on his second run, with a backside air to frontside double 1080, followed by a cab double 1080 to a front 540, ending it with a perfect double McTwist 1260 into an alley-oop backside rodeo, giving him a winning score of 97.25.
"Shaun's human also, so he falls," Luke Mitrani said. "But he doesn't fall twice."
Many did not expect the gold medalist to make an appearance at the Grand Prix finals in Park City after X Games Aspen, but White said it was a good last-minute decision.
"I realized I was on the lower side of my points," White said. "So I had to catch up and earn my spot for the U.S. team. It was a tough one today. The guys all rode super hard, but it's nice to have that pressure out of the way."
Lago finished second with 94.50 points and Mitrani was third with 91.75 to complete an American sweep. Mitrani won the national title based on points earned at Friday's event and another event in Colorado this season -- earning him an extra $20,000.
"That second run honestly was probably one of the better runs I ever put down, including practice," Lago said. "I couldn't be any happier and couldn't have topped it, either."
Much like White, Jiayu's first run in women's pipe was a scratch due to a wipeout at the end of the pipe, but her second run was smooth to the finish. Claiming the Grand Prix gold means Jiayu is one step closer to finding a spot on the Chinese team for the Olympics. Arielle Gold ran a close second, while Kaitlyn Farrington claimed third.
"I'm so happy to for the win today," Jiayu said. "I look forward to Sochi, but I still have a lot of work I need to do. All these girls are so good, and I am very lucky to have won."
Gold ended up as the national champion, continuing an amazing run that included a win at the world championship two weeks ago in Quebec and a bronze as an X Games rookie last week in Aspen.
She was hampered by a shin injury suffered during a practice session this week. It didn't affect her runs, only fear of landing.
She wasn't complaining afterward.
"It's been an amazing season," Gold said. "I couldn't be happier with how things are going for me."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.